ORIGINAL ARTICLE: BEHAVIORAL
AND SOCIAL SCIENCES
Community intervention to increase neighborhood social
network among Japanese older adults
Kazuhiro Harada, Kouhei Masumoto, Keiko Katagiri, Ai Fukuzawa, Makoto Chogahara,
Narihiko Kondo and Shuichi Okada
Active Aging Research Hub, Graduate School of Human Development and Environment, Kobe University, Kobe, Japan
Aim: Strengthening neighborhood social networks is important for promoting health among older adults. How-
ever, effective intervention strategies aimed at increasing older adults’ social networks have not yet been established.
The present study examined whether a university-led community intervention that provided communication oppor-
tunities could increase older Japanese adults’ neighborhood social networks.
Methods: The present study used a quasi-experimental design. Before the intervention, using postal mail, we car-
ried out a baseline questionnaire survey that was sent to all people living in the Tsurukabuto community aged
≥60 years (n = 1769), of whom 1068 responded. For the community intervention, 18 event-based programs were
provided over the course of 1 year at Kobe University. Academic staff at Kobe University organized all the programs.
During the program, social interactions among participants were promoted. A follow-up survey was distributed to
those who responded to the baseline survey, and 710 individuals answered the question about their participation in
the intervention programs (138 respondents were participants, 572 were non-participants). The neighborhood social
network was measured in both the baseline and follow-up surveys.
Results: Analysis of covariance showed that the changes in neighborhood social network among participants in
the program was signiﬁcantly higher than the changes among non-participants (P = 0.046) after adjusting for the
baseline score of social network.
Conclusions: The present study found that participants of the intervention expanded their neighborhood social
network, but non-participants did not. This ﬁnding shows that community interventions using university resources
could increase older adults’ neighborhood social networks. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2018; 18: 462–469.
Keywords: aged, neighborhoods, public health, social network, universities.
Limited social networks (a person’s social relationships)
are a risk factor for older adults’ various health prob-
lems. Meta-analyses have shown that a lack of social
relationships is a major risk factor for mortality;
tact with friends is associated with higher subjective
poor social relationships are a risk factor
for cognitive decline,
strokes and coronary heart dis-
and frequent social contact can reduce the risk of
Furthermore, some studies have
shown that social networks with friends/neighbors have
more inﬂuence on depressive symptoms than social
networks with families,
basic and instrumental activi-
ties of daily living,
and mortality risks.
pared with family members, the frequency of contact
with friends decreases signiﬁcantly with aging.
strengthening social networks with friends and neigh-
bors is important for promoting health among older
Nevertheless, effective interventions aimed at
increasing older adults’ social networks have not yet
been established. As older adults spend more time in
their local communities, establishing community-based
interventions targeting networks within a community
are required. Previous studies aimed at increasing social
networks in certain communities have targeted adults
Focusing on older populations, Coll-
Planas et al. showed that group-based support pro-
grams can signiﬁcantly increase social networks with
friends, and decrease loneliness among socially inactive
older adults at baseline.
Fujiwara et al. also showed
Accepted for publication 15 September 2017.
Correspondence: Dr Shuichi Okada PhD, Active Aging Research
Hub, Graduate School of Human Development and
Environment, Kobe University, 3–11 Tsurukabuto, Nada, Kobe,
Hyogo 657-8501, Japan. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
| doi: 10.1111/ggi.13208 © 2017 Japan Geriatrics Society
Geriatr Gerontol Int 2018; 18: 462–469